This interview with Rick Corcoran, the man behind Orange and Orgone Box, was done when the first album came out on Minus Zero in 2001. The recent news that a new albun is planned for release this year on the Sugarbush label is both exciting and also makes this even more interesting.
So how did you first get into music?
“My brother taught me how to play a few chords on the guitar and piano when I was about fourteen and I sort of taught myself from then on by playing along to records. When I joined my first band, I was sixteen and working in a nightclub in Sheffield. There was a band with a silly name rehearsing in the afternoons and I used to get up and jam with them after I'd swept the broken teeth and pigs trotters off the floor Anyway that was my first band.
Growing up I got a cross section of influences. My dad was a Beatles fan, Frank Sinatra too. My mum listened to Rodgers and Hammerstein and my brother was into Be-Bop Deluxe and prog rock in a big way. So there was always a lot of that stuff being played around the house.
My thing was always guitar pop more than anything – first The Beatles, then Sweet and stuff on Top of the Pops, then Punk and bands like Cheap Trick and The La's. Nowadays if I'm honest I download my favourites off the Internet, stuff like I'm Mandy Fly Me, You're So Vain, Silver Star by The Four Seasons and Guitar Man by Bread. Apart from obvious stuff like The Beatles and The Beach Boys, I've always been into one-off tracks and hits more than any one band and I still am”
So how did you start making your own music?
“When I first moved to London, I joined a band called Sugarbush who were a sort of Replacements/Tom Petty-ish type band. We gigged around Richmond and Fulham for about six months and then I took off with the drummer and the bass player and formed The Green Tambourines. The Tambourines were the first good band I'd been in, but maybe we were a bit out of time. I mean we were playing guitar pop while your Jesus Jones and Acid House were happening! As far as I knew an E was a major chord.
Island Records put us in the studio with Wreckless Eric producing, but they wanted us to be Nirvana so that didn't work. We also had a daft manager who played jazz on his answerphone and didn't know anyone, so you can tell how organised we were. Anyway we did some memorable gigs around London, but we split up after about eighteen months. I'm still in contact with two of the guys from the Tambourines In fact the drummer Tam Johnstone played drums on the Orgone Box and the bass player Tim McTighe did the orchestral arrangement on the track Find The One.”
So this was when Orange came about?
“Orange came together quite quickly after that. I was playing guitar for a band at the Midem festival in France and I gave one of my demos to their manager. He offered me some studio time. but only if I had a band, which I didn't. So Orange was formed by picking the first three guys I came across - not a good move.
We signed with Chrysalis by making them think we'd been together for ages. but actually I didn't know the band from Adam and they didn't know me. The demos that got us signed were all my work, I'd done them at home, but the record company couldn't tell, as a band we didn't sound anything like them. When I. heard the recordings we did at Abbey Road, they could have been different songs. It was a joke, but it was my fault, because I'd roped them into it.
The first thing we did after signing for Chrysalis was the single Judy Over The Rainbow. As far as I can remember I had a good time making it because the producer Dave Eringa, was a really funny bloke and the song went down really easy. The response from the radio was good too, loads of plays on Radcliffe and Independent stations. Everybody at the gigs knew the song, which was great because it was the first time anything like that had happened for me.
I think if we'd been a cooler band it would have been a hit. Nowadays I prefer the 4-track demo version that I wrote and recorded while I was with the Green Tambourines and which is also on the Orgone Box album. I like the arrangement on the Orange version, but it's played too fast and sounds a bit hectic to me, which incidentally sums Orange up. I relate more to the slower spaced out feel of the original, it rolls along as opposed to jumping, if you know what I mean, and it's less gimmicky.
Orange recorded loads of my songs for Chrysalis, but none of them ever got released. Because we never got on as a group of people, we never really hit it off as a band. I think the bad feeling started right at the beginning when I got rid of the first drummer and another guitarist who happened to be mates with the rest of 'em. I don't think they ever forgave me for that, but there you go. Although I don't particularly enjoy being hated, that on it's own didn't bother me.
It was the laziness and playing crap that I couldn't work with. They were always late for gigs, which is fine if you play great and look great but they didn't, songs were always breaking down. In the end we went into Chipping Norton studio with Gus Dudgeon, to re-record an album we'd fucked up at Rockfield. But the band just couldn't get their parts together. The guitarist couldn't think of anything to play and the drummer just gave up and asked if we could use a drum machine!
I found it all a bit embarrassing in front of a guy like Gus. I mean he did Space Oddity and Rocket Man for godsake! After three days work they went home for the weekend and never came back. I haven't seen them since. It was all my fault, because I roped them into it. I ended up finishing the album with Gus, but it never came out because Chrysalis dropped the whole project anyway. Funnily enough that was the best feeling I'd had for along time.”
You're time with Orange doesn't sound a happy one. Did it put you off the whole music thing?
“No, I thought sod all that major record company stuff and spending weeks in big studios getting drum sounds, comping vocals and everybody eating three course meals. I hated it, so I borrowed some money and hired some tape machines and started recording new songs at home. I did this kitsch campy song called Find The One, which is a kind of Roy Orbison thing and some Japanese label heard it and asked me to do an album, which eventually turned out to be The Orgone Box.
Making it was a really enjoyable experience for me. I had four 8-track tape machines, a 32 channel desk, a load of effects, three amps and half a dozen guitars all set up in my flat, so I could make a right racket. I wrote most of the songs while I was recording them. What I did was put down some guide drums with a click, added a bass line, a bit of guitar and a vocal.
Then I took the tapes and the machines to this place called the House in the Woods, which is a big old mansion house in some woods just off the M25. 1 got hold of Tam Johnstone and he laid the drums down to my guide track in what looked like a big dining room or a library or something. The feel was just right and the whole thing took about four days.
Then I took the tapes home again and spent a few weeks doing overdubs and generally just had a great time playing around with the music. I've always wanted to be in a great band, but when it comes to recording, I always seem to be at my best when I'm working alone. It's just the way I am. That way I can conjure up and maintain an atmosphere that I feel is right for the song and put all of myself into the performance, instead of reacting to an atmosphere created by others.
I don't like being hurried or slowed down by other people. I like to do things in unorthodox ways and at unsociable times. I can start work on an idea one day and just keep working until I'm happy. I don't think about sleeping or eating. Those things just break the flow up for me. I'll stop when I'm satisfied or when I get bored or when I drop.
At the end of the day, it's not the sound quality or making sense that I'm most bothered about. It's whether there's a spark in the record that excites me, a feel that takes me somewhere else in my head, that's what I do it for. I mean just listen to Noddyland. The crowd on there is from the Shea Stadium gig, I had it in my cans while I was singing and playing guitar at the same time and it was like a fantasy gig for me. Pure tennis racket!”
Listening to the album it strikes me how literate and thought provoking the words are.
“It's a very personal and private record lyrically and at the same time, I feel that the tunes are universal. Nearly all the songs are introspective themes because that's the way I am. I'm always thinking about what I'm thinking or what you're thinking and my songs usually analyse me. Listen to Anaesthesia, Bubble or Ticket With No Return for instance. Lyrically I'm being very melancholy, even a bit down on myself. But at the same time the tunes are very uplifting, very welcoming to the listener. I think the tunes contain a hopeful message.”
So what the heck is an Orgone Box anyway?
“The Orgone Box was a thing devised by a psychoanalyst called Wilhelm Reich. He claimed that Orgone was some kind of universal energy and that he could capture it in his device and then use it to treat illness. I read about it in a book on the occult by Colin Wilson and I liked the idea of it. It sounded musical to me and I'd done most of the record in my flat, which I suppose is a kind of box, so bobs your uncle, as they say It's nothing profound I just liked the sound of it.”
How does it feel now the album is finally coming out?
“It's funny how things come about, I honestly thought that the album would never get off the ground. The Japanese label got closed down and I couldn't get anything else going, so when Bill Forsyth phoned me out of the blue I was dead chuffed. I'm hoping that the Minus Zero release will prick up some ears. I read somewhere that if the music is playing, the audience will find it one day and I believe this. Sooner or later the album will make its mark, and to be honest I could do with the money to do more recording.
At the moment, I've got the bones of another album written and I've just started putting the ideas down on tape. As it stands I think the first side is going to be about eight songs all joined together in a kind of mosaic. I'd love to get something else out this year if possible, that's what I'm aiming for.”
The early Rick Corcoran recordings are still available on Vinyl from Sugarbush Records on the fantastic Lorne Park Tapes (SB019) here.
Centaur, the reworking of the Orgone Box album is still available on CD here and as a download here. The Sugarbush Vinyl Release is now sold out.